Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — The Youngstown Telegram

For all my years of growing up, Youngstown was basically a one-newspaper town. In 2019, Youngstown faced the prospect of becoming a newspaper desert as the Vindicator announced it would cease operations. Subsequently, the Warren Tribune-Chronicle picked up the Vindicator name and continues to publish a paper in Youngstown under that name. Several other news outlets stepped up their news coverage including The Business Journal and a new online news outlet, Mahoning Matters. Local television stations added coverage on their websites as well. There are actually more news outlets than in 2019.

This was the case in Youngstown through much of its history until 1936. My dad talked about delivering the Telegram in his youth. For about five decades, Youngstown had two major papers, the Youngstown Vindicator and the Youngstown Telegram. It arose out of a newspaper war in the 1880’s. McKelvey’s founder G. M. McKelvey, Judge L. W. King, H. M. Garlick, William Cornelius, and Hal K. Taylor formed the Youngstown Printing Company on November 17, 1885, with McKelvey as president. On December 1, the Youngstown Evening Telegram came into existence with Judge L. W. King as editorial manager, In 1891, they discontinued the Sunday paper and in 1895 the name became the Youngstown Telegram.

The paper was known to have a Republican bent. The paper advocated prohibition, which may have been the reason publisher Samuel G, McClure’s home was bombed. A few years later, The New York Times, reported the bombing of the newspaper offices on the night of November 15, 1918.

One of Youngstown’s most well-known reporters came out of the Telegram. Esther Hamilton began her career as a reporter with the paper and then joined the Vindicator when the Telegram was acquired by the Vindicator in 1936. One of her early assignments was to cover the Youngstown City Schools.

In subsequent years, the newspaper became part of the Scripps-Howard chain. The paper had more of a national focus and subscriptions began to slip, and hence ad revenues. Then in 1928, the paper turned its back on its Republican base and endorsed Al Smith in his race against Herbert Hoover. Smith lost and the paper lost circulation. Around this time, a circulation reporting scandal arose, as the newspaper reported higher circulation figures when in fact, the circulation department was buying back over 3,000 copies. By the time when they were acquired by the Vindicator, one source puts their circulation in the neighborhood of 24,000 to over 42,000 for the Vindicator, which meant much higher ad revenues for the Vindicator. The Vindicator also had a Sunday edition.

Youngstown Vindicator from May 3, 1960, the last day “And The Youngstown Telegram” appears.

The last edition of The Youngstown Telegram was July 2, 1936. For many years, the name appearing at the top of the front page was “Youngstown Vindicator” and in much smaller print “The Youngstown Telegram.” The last day this appears on the paper was May 3, 1960, after which only the Youngstown Vindicator and later Vindicator appears. I don’t know what the disappearance of the name meant, but the use of the two may have suggested more of a merger than an acquisition. Certainly staff for both newspapers worked on the Vindicator. Perhaps it was also a way to appeal to old Telegram subscribers. A front page story on July 3, 1936 in the new paper states: “Readers of the Telegram will find little changed in the new Vindicator-Telegram. The Vindicator has won national recognition for its progressive editorial policy and undoubtedly it will be continued in the merged publication.”

My dad used to call it the Vindicator-Telegram. Now I understand why. I was just learning to read when the last vestige of the Telegram disappeared. But the hyphenated name looks back to a time when Youngstown was a two-newspaper town.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: The Post-Capitalist Society

Post-Capitalist Society, Peter F. Drucker. New York: Harper Collins, 1993.

Summary: Describes the transformation of a society based on capital to one based on knowledge whose key structure is the responsibility-based organization.

Peter Drucker, who died in 2005 was the business guru I looked to as a young leader in a non-profit organization. He wrote Post-Capitalist Society in 1993. In many ways, it captures a number of his key ideas, and in many ways seems prophetic, twenty-eight years later.

His key idea here is that we have witnessed a transformation from a capitalist society to a knowledge society, based on the successive Industrial, Productivity, and Management Revolutions. Now we are not in a situation of knowledge but knowledges–specialized knowledge for work in more highly specialized organizations. Organizations make knowledge productive for a special purpose. In a knowledge society, the workers own the capital, which is their knowledge, but need the organization to make it productive.

He has a fascinating discussion on the source of capital in pension funds through institutional investors. Here as well, employees are the ultimate “owners” even while trustees manage these funds. He points to the critical role of corporate governance in creating organizations responsible to these employee-owners. As he looks at the question of productivity, he advocates for corporate restructuring and outsourcing so that organizations concentrate on what they are most effective at doing. Effective responsible organizations are ones where everyone takes responsibility for the organization.

He then turns from the knowledge society of organizations to the wider polity of which they are a part. He envisions the transitions from nations to megastates, as we see in the European Union, NAFTA, and other regional economic polities. Even in 1994, Drucker recognized the environment as one of the needs for transnational arrangements, as well as counter-terrorism efforts and arms control. Even while he recognizes this movement to regional entities and transnational agreements, he foresaw the rise of tribalism, and the stress on diversity rather than unity. For Drucker, tribal and transnational identities go together. And maybe this is so, but not in the ethnic ways he sees but in the radical political identities on the far right and left of the political spectrum that find iterations in many countries.

He is witheringly critical of “the nanny state” in which taxation and economic policy is designed not to make the “patient” healthy but rather to feel good. He points to the success of Germany (before 1989) and Japan and the “Asian tigers” that had high taxes but high investment in education, in facilities, and infrastructure. He argues that patriotism is not enough and that what is needed is the revitalization of community (even more true today) and citizenship expressed through voluntarism.

In the final section, he focuses even more on the cultivation of knowledge. He argues that we know more than we do and need to learn to “only connect,” to see how disparate pieces connect as a whole. He considers here the needs of education, and contends here, as well, for outsourcing and charter schools (an area that has a very mixed record of effectiveness). He advocates for the “accountable” school. While Drucker had a richer vision of the results he would seek from education, his was among the voices that sustained an accountability movement that has focused more on test-taking than learning, to the discouragement of many teachers. Ultimately Drucker believed people needed to be educated for work in two cultures simultaneously–“that of the ‘intellectual,’ who focuses on words and idea, and that of the ‘manager,’ who focuses on people and work.”

Where Drucker seems the most prescient is his understanding of the knowledge economy. What I don’t think he foresaw was the monetization of knowledge in the information economy. He recognized the growth of transnationalism, but didn’t fully reckon with the reactionary character of nationalism, often acting against its own interests. He had wisdom that both corporations and governments need about long-term planning and especially for governments, the follies of budget deficits in good times as well as bad. Perhaps most compelling to me was his call beyond patriotism to work for the common good and to citizenship expressed in voluntarism. He recognized that we need people educated both in humane ideals and technical skill, refusing to come down on one side or the other. None of us sees the future with complete clarity. Drucker saw it better than many, understanding the developments and trajectory of history and the challenges facing organizations and large polities of his time.

Review: Pillars

Pillars, Rachel Pieh Jones, Foreword by Abdi Nor Iftin. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing, 2021.

Summary: An account about how the author’s attitudes both toward Islam and her Christian faith changed as she and her husband lived among Muslims in Somalia and Djibouti.

Rachel Pieh Jones grew up in a warm and thriving evangelical church in Minnesota. A lot of love–and some legalism. She didn’t know any Muslims but believed that they were “violent, backward, and just plain wrong.” Yet in Pillars, after a number of years in Somalia and Djibouti, she writes:

“I had a lot to learn about how to love my neighbors and practice my faith cross-culturally. I don’t identify with the label ‘missionary,’ with its attendant cultural, theological, and historical baggage, though I understand this is how many view me. I do love to talk about spirituality–and what fascinates me is that the more I discuss faith with Muslims, the more we both return to our roots and dig deeper. As we explore our own faith, in relationship with someone who thinks differently, each of us comes to experience God in richer, more intimate ways. In this manner, Muslims have helped me become a better Christian, though things didn’t start out that way” (p. 49).

How did she change? It began with some relationships with Somali refugees in their apartment complex in Minnesota while her husband completed doctoral studies. An opportunity opened up to teach in Somalia at Amoud University. This led to an immersion in Somali life, aided by their housekeeper and the guard assigned to them as foreign nationals–for ten months, when all their plans were interrupted when several foreign nationals were killed and they had to grab their evacuation bags and flee on a moment’s notice. The found refuge in neighboring Djibouti. Over the next years, Rachel and Tom grew close to a number of Muslims, entering into shared life, and observing their devotion to Islam

They didn’t become Muslims. They learned a lot about Islam. When urged to pray the shahada, she was able to say, “No, I love Jesus.” She answered a lot of questions about Jesus. She learned how to live among the people. She celebrated weddings and births and the breaking of fasts.

Jones organizes her account around the five pillars of Islam: creed, prayer, giving, fasting, and pilgrimage. Learning how her Muslim neighbors encountered God made her reflect more deeply on her own faith, and fall more deeply in love with Jesus. The shahada, a call to convert, to submit to God who is one is really a call to revert. It reminded her of Jesus and Nicodemus, the call to be born again. The prayers, which she sometimes was able to join some women in, led her to a renewal in her own prayer life–amid a pregnancy, ever present dangers, and the everyday challenges of life. The practices of almsgiving forced her to face how she also was conscious of reward in giving and recounts her experiences of helping a poor refugee establish an outdoor restaurant. She had rarely fasted but fasted along with others during Ramadan and joined in the joyous celebrations of Eid. Learning about the pilgrimage to Mecca brought her to a realization of her own lifelong pilgrimage.

I so appreciated this narrative. It was earthy and incarnational. Jones adopts an open and learning posture, both with her Muslim friends and toward what the Lord Jesus would teach her. She can recognize difference without “othering.” She’s as open about Jesus as she is to learning from her friends, like Amaal, her spirited maid. And over time she is able to distinguish what is American Christianity and what is the core of the gospel of Jesus.

This is not a book for those interested in polemics against Islam. Jones takes us into the lived experience of Muslims in the Horn of Africa and what a real engagement with them can be like with risk, affection, difference, and real learning. We also should remember her learning journey began with the Somali refugees in Minnesota. Many of us are near Muslim communities. We may have Muslim neighbors or work colleagues or health care providers. This is a valuable book both for its exploration of Islam, but also for its model of humble, open dialogue, willing to make mistakes and take risks, to welcome and be welcomed. And it points to what can happen as we engage those of another faith. We not only learn about their faith. We rediscover our own.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: When Men Behave Badly

When Men Behave Badly, David M. Buss. New York: Little, Brown Spark, 2021.

Summary: A discussion of sexual violence, deception, harassment and abuse, largely on the part of men, grounded in evolutionary sexual conflict theory that helps explain why so many relationships between men and women go bad.

Harassment. Intimate partner violence. Controlling behavior. Stalking. Sexual coercion and rape. We hear reports in our daily news of these sexual offenses, and indeed, some version of these offenses occur in every culture. And in most cases, the perpetrators are men. As a male, this is troubling. Are we all rapists, as Marilyn French has asserted? Certainly many women are wary of all men. Beyond this lies the question of how we explain the universality of sexual oppression and violence.

In When Men Behave Badly, psychologist David M. Buss proposes that sexual conflict theory provides an explanation for these behaviors. In brief, sexual conflict theory roots these behaviors in our evolutionary struggles to reproduce, in which males and females have conflicting strategies for passing along our germ lines. Optimal strategies for men involve multiple matings. For women, the optimal strategy is a long term relationship with a mate. Each gender has developed strategies to counter the other and hence conflict that can turn oppressive, manipulative and violent. These traits are deeply engrained in us. Yet these do not determine or warrant men behaving badly. And not all men do.

It is a battle of the sexes, and largely, a battle over the bodies of women. Buss begins by showing how this works out in the mating market. Buss explores how man assess sexual exploitability, how each gender practices deception and how men and women think differently about what is desirable. It is here that Buss introduces the Dark Triad of traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Men with this triad are much more prone to abuse. Weirdly, perhaps, they are attractive to many women, and there may be evolutionary reasons for this, although they make for terrible long-term relationships. He looks at conflict within mateships–backup mates, and affairs and mate retention through sexual withdrawal and bestowal.

Buss then gets into relationship conflict and the role of jealousy that may be the source of mate guarding, intimate partner violence, stalking and partner rape. All of these may be seen as a form of protectiveness of their investment and guarding partners from other male poachers. Buss goes into the ways perpetrators hijack their victim’s psychology, making it less likely that they will leave. When partners do break up, it may lead to stalking and revenge, including revenge porn.

Buss examines the claim that all men are rapists. Sadly, many men do fantasize about forced sex. Many fewer will act on it. Buss looks at why men who rape do so. Narcissism and lack of empathy, hostility toward women, and disposition to short-term relationships all contribute to a proneness to rape. He also discusses how women defend against sexual coercion, how they avoid assault or escape from it. There is a blind spot. Women most fear stranger rape when in fact most rapes are from men with whom they are acquainted.

The final chapter discusses “minding the sex gap.” He observes some of the misperceptions of desirability and what is attractive (and disgusting) that men do well to understand, the importance of closing legal gaps in terms of harassment and sex crimes, and changing the norms around patriarchy. Learning to recognize the Dark Triad traits mentioned earlier and to protect oneself from them is important.

I found this a bleak book. It is a grim “butchers’ bill” of all the ways men transgress against women, supposedly for some evolutionary reproductive advantage. The back and forth of strategies and counter-strategies felt to me a reduction of relationships between men and women to power games cloaked as sexual transactions. While I think the author would deny it, especially in terms of legal culpability, there is a strong element of evolutionary determinism that underlies the explanations of behavior. It seems the remedy is less self-control as it is evolutionary counter-measures and social and legal controls. I will grant that sexual conflict theory does offer a compelling explanation for the bad behavior of men across cultures. But it reduces human sexuality and all the mating behavior around it to reproductive instincts.

While reproduction is a big part of sexuality for humans as well as animals, this seems an inadequate account of the many beautiful, though always flawed, relationships between men and women that endure long past reproduction, and for the school of character that is marriage, forging mutually sacrificial love, shared and complimentary interests, and generative bonds that not only create families but enrich communities. Buss explains the ways men and women go wrong, and perhaps this is what he most sees. I hope perhaps someday he will have occasion to write about “when men behave well.” I suspect it is to this he aspires, and there are many others I know who have been models of listening to the “better angels of their natures.” Although less noticed, I think asking why this is so is equally worth careful study.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Another Wave

Photo by Allan Watson on Pexels.com

In May I wrote about “Coming Out of the Cave.” I wrote about some of the “normal” things we were starting to do. We’ve dined out and gone to public places without wearing masks. We booked a remodeling job in our home in October. I started making plans to sing with our choral group in the fall.

I wrote back then:

I hope we don’t have to return to the cave. But we don’t know what will happen with the virus. The worst nightmare is that it keeps getting more infectious and also causes more severe illness with high mortality rates. As long as it is out there, especially at significant levels, that is possible, especially with over half the country and much more of the world un-vaccinated. Because of that, I can’t think of a return to pre-pandemic “normal.” That is living in a dream. But like most of you, I will enjoy a bit more life outside the cave this summer.

What I hoped would not happen has. The Delta variant is sweeping through the country with huge rises in cases. It is at least 2 1/2 times more infectious as original COVID, and while the vaccines are very effective in preventing hospitalization and death, they are less so, in preventing infection. As one of the “over 65” crowd, my immune system isn’t as strong as younger people, and even a number of them who have been vaccinated have had “breakthrough” infections. Most of these are mild, but one doctor described mild as a bad cold or a case of the flu. That doesn’t sound great. A booster shot will help, but there aren’t any yet, and it will be some time. The six-month mark when the vaccine may begin to wane comes around the end of September for me.

So what does that mean? I will continue to worship with our “masked” church and resume wearing masks when I am shopping indoors. I will seek outdoor or take out dining. Indoor gatherings with large numbers where I don’t know the vaccination status seems really iffy. Long exposures mean enough exposure to this more infectious virus that may be more than my immune system can handle.

Looking at the infection curves of the previous waves, it appears waves take five to six months to wax and wane, peaking 2-3 months in. Officials are saying October will be bad. That would be about right. And maybe it will wane by January–if something new doesn’t come along.

I find myself both angry and sad. Fundamentally, I’m angry because this doesn’t have to be. While vaccines never provide complete protection, a high vaccination rate would make it much harder for this variant to take hold. I’m angered at the misinformation campaigns that have persuaded people that the vaccine is far worse than the virus, which is just plain wrong. The long term debilities and the deaths resulting from this are on them, and on the public officials who cave to them. I’m angry that those asserting their “freedom” end up making others less free and possibly sick.

And I’m sad. I’m sad for our economy, which will never fully recover until COVID is suppressed. I’m sad for all those like myself, who because of risk factors need to reconsider all the things we had just begun doing. Most of all, I am sad for all those who will die or get very sick who did not need to. I’m sad for kids who are getting sick because they can’t get vaccinated and the adults in their lives won’t. It all seems such a waste. I’m sad that we are so divided over this even in a time of crisis.

I’m not sure if I will sing with our choir (if they are able to). The choir is requiring proof of vaccination. But it is not clear that we will mask, and singing has been proven to be a very effective way of spreading COVID. Do I hope that no one is infected with a breakthrough infection, and that vaccinated people are unlikely to spread infection? [Update: In the 24 hours since I wrote this the CDC has announced that vaccinated persons who are infected do shed the virus in significant amounts and can infect others.] There is a lot we don’t know. I also have to think about my wife, who has had some health issues.

I’ve concluded that I can’t change anyone’s mind about these things. Given our divided state, and the challenge of vaccinating the world, I believe we will be dealing with COVID for a long time, as the virus keeps mutating and circulating. I think we will have alternating seasons of relative normalcy, and others of infection spikes. I will keep paying attention to infection rates and gauge my behavior appropriately.

And my faith? I will not “test” God by exposing myself to possible infection on purpose or recklessly. Nor will I presume that anything “protects” me–masks, vaccines, anything. I will use these means as gracious provisions of God to reduce my risk of infection but my trust is in God, not means. My trust is in the God who already has numbered my days. I believe I will live as long as God gives me life. I will do all I can not to be a source of infection to others.

While I’ve enjoyed life out of the cave, I’ve also discovered in the last year the richness of days shared with my wife, a good conversation with a friend, times with vaccinated friends and family, the beauties in my own backyard, and the delights of a good book. Philippians 4:12-13 is more real to me now than ever: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Whether COVID waxes or wanes, and I believe it will continue to do both, Christ continues to be the one who gives me strength. And that is enough.

Review: The 30-Minute Bible

The 30-Minute Bible, Craig G. Bartholomew and Paige P. Vanosky, with illustrations by Br. Martin Erspamer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2021.

Summary: An overview of the big story of the Bible, broken into 30 readings of roughly 30 minutes in length, accompanied by charts, diagrams, and illustrations.

Paige Vanosky, a co-author of this book describes its beginning with a request from an ecumenical women’s group, asking if she could “explain the story of the Bible in just thirty minutes?” This, in turn led to a chronological study of the message of the Bible with women’s groups and her collaboration with theologian Craig G. Bartholomew in development of The 30-Minute Bible, a collection of thirty short readings tracing the big story of scripture through six acts:

  1. Act One: God Establishes His Kingdom: Creation
  2. Act Two: Rebellion in the Kingdom: The Fall
  3. Act Three: The King Chooses Israel: Salvation Initiated
  4. Act Four: The Coming of the King: Salvation Accomplished
  5. Act Five: Spreading the News of the King: The Mission of the Church
  6. Act Six: The Return of the King: Redemption Completed

The largest portion of the readings are devoted to Act Three (15 readings covering Old Testament history from the fall to the intertestamental period) and Act Four (7 on John and the ministry of Jesus in the gospels).

The readings are straightforward, clear, and free of technical language. Here is an excerpt from Chapter Two (Act One) on the Creation:

“If, like us, you love art, Genesis 1 is like being taken to the most extraordinary exhibition you have ever seen. But imagine if, even as you are exploring the exhibition with wide eyes, a friend comes up to you and asks, “Would you like to meet the artist?” Of course, your answer would be, “Yes.” This is exactly what the Bible does in its opening chapters. Yes, the creation is wonderful, but even more wonderful is the One who made it, and a major aim of the Bible is to introduce us to the Creator God. What is the Creator like? The opening words begin to provide our answer.

Craig G. Bartholomew and Paige P. Vanosky, p. 15

At the conclusion of each chapter of four to six pages, short scripture readings related to and often referenced in the readings. The authors encourage reading these passages in a modern translation. In my own reading, I found I could read each chapter and the scripture passage in about twenty minutes, although one might want to take a little more time for reflection, so the title is accurate.

This is not a comprehensive introduction to every book in scripture, although a helpful chart outlines the organization of the books in our Bibles. The Old Testament portion focuses on historical narratives, with scattered references to the writings and the prophets. Likewise, in the New Testament, the greatest attention is to the gospels and Pauline works, Acts, and Revelation. The authors suggest online and written resources that help in going deeper.

The readings do include charts, chronologies, maps and diagrams that help provide background context. One of the most delightful features are the illustrations by Br. Martin Erspamer, allowing for a visual as well as textual engagement of the story. I was particularly taken by the art piece showing Jesus with Mary in the garden after the resurrection.

I’ve worked with many intimidated as they try to read the Bible. They got lost in Leviticus or numbed by Numbers. They lack a sense of how all the books of scripture cohere. Even for many who have some familiarity with the Bible, they know the stories, but lack a sense of the big story of God, how this is for everyone, and relates to all of life. The authors point out how all of us live within Act Five, Spreading the News of the King, looking forward to Act Six, the Return of the King. Knowing the story within which we live is life-shaping, speaking to our sense of purpose, what we value most dearly, how we relate to the different communities we are part of, and how we think about the substance of our work. This compact book leads the reader into discovering that story. I wish I had this to pass along years ago and I look forward to using it with groups in the future.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Songs of the Summer

Rolling Stones in concert, Houtrusthallen The Hague (NL), 15 April 1967, Ben Merk (ANEFO), CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you remember where you were the first time you heard the Beatles sing “A Hard Day’s Night”? Was there a song you associated with your first love? Was there a song you loved to crank up to full volume on a hot summer evening cruising around in your car? Were you like me and always had you radio set to WHOT?

I took a walk down memory lane with the help of Billboard’s Summer Songs 1958-2020: The Top 10 Tunes of Each Summer“. I looked back at the decade of 1963-1972, the last year being when I graduated from high school. I listened to some of those songs on a transistor with an earphone jack. Others I listened to cranked up on my stereo (“turn that awful music down!”). Some were the songs blaring from loudspeakers on midways at Idora Park or the Canfield Fair or the dances we went to. Here are some of the ones I remembered:

1963: “Blowing in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. This was the last summer of John F. Kennedy’s “Camelot” and this reflected the idealism he inspired. We played my brother’s LP recording of their songs over and over. I still tear up when I watch one of our videos and they sing this song. And there was Mary’s voice and that long blonde hair!

1964: “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals. Was it Eric Burdon’s low growl as he sang “There is a house in New Orleans…” or the subject matter–a house of ill-repute? We all thought of ourselves as “bad boys” when we heard him sing it.

1965: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” The Rolling Stones. Speaking of bad boys. It spoke what a lot of us testosterone- drunk boys were feeling.

1966: “Summer in the City” The Lovin’ Spoonful. John Sebastian sang about getting dirty and gritty in the city but how “at night it’s a different world./Go out and find a girl.” We knew dirty and gritty in Youngstown and I was starting to wake up to the idea of going out and finding a girl as an awkward junior high student. Here’s a video of Sebastian singing the song.

1967: This was the summer of The Doors’ “Light my Fire” and Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco.” I remember waking up to deliver Sunday papers with “San Francisco” running through my head. Just don’t light my fire with flowers in my hair! It was always cool when they’d play the long version of “Light My Fire” on the radio. Nothing like it.

1968: OK, this is true confessions time. Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s in Love with You” was the number one song and it was the theme of my crush on a girl in my neighborhood. She never knew! Heard the song recently and was struck with what a truly awful singer Alpert was. I think it was the only time he tried singing. It’s funny how there were the sweet love songs and then the bad boy songs. It was also the summer of Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”

1969: Not sure there was a standout that year, but “One” by Three Dog Night was a song I could identify with. I listened to a lot of Three Dog Night around that time.

1970: It wasn’t top 10 that summer but it spoke to the grief so many of us felt from the killings at nearby Kent State. Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s “Ohio’ captured the grief and anguish so many of us felt. I can’t help but think of a young girl from Boardman who died that day who is memorialized in the words, “What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground? How can you run when you know.” That girl was 400 feet away and walking to class. Here’s a live acoustic recording I had not seen before of Neil Young singing the song in 1971.

1971: It seemed that the songs got gentler after Kent State. My memory of this year was James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It was stuck in my head enough that when I had to give the valedictory address for my high school class in 1972, it was the basis of my talk.

1972: The song from this year’s list with the most staying power was “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, but for me, the Hollies last gasp, “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)” was the song I remember.

I’ll stop there. It’s pretty apparent that girls were a big thing on my mind at that time. In the fall of 1972, I went to Youngstown State. On the second day, I met a girl from the Southside who I started dating a few weeks later. Forty-nine years later she is sitting across the room as I write. I consider myself fortunate and blessed. Life didn’t turn out like the songs–rather far different and better.

What are some of the songs you remember from the summers of your youth and of what do they remind you?

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Review: The End of the Affair

The End of the Affair, Graham Greene. New York: Open Road Media, 2018 (originally published in 1951).

Summary: A writer struggles to understand why the woman he has had an affair with broke it off, discovering who ultimately came between them.

Maurice Bendrix, a rising writer, encounters Henry Miles, the successful but dull civil servant Bendrix had cuckolded by having a five year affair with Sarah Miles, his attractive wife. The affair, hidden from Henry had ended nearly two years earlier. All that Henry knew (or claimed to know) was that Bendrix had been a great friend. Now he comes to Bendrix with a problem. He is concerned that Sarah may be seeing someone else and wonders about hiring a private detective.

Bendrix discourages this plan, but ends up hiring the detective himself. He’s never understood why Sarah broke off their affair, although at some level, he knows his jealousy of Henry, who she will not leave, had been driving them apart. But they had a powerful love that drew them together. They were parted toward the end of the war when a German V-1 struck the building they were in, leaving him apparently dead underneath some debris. But in fact, he survived. Their affair did not.

Only when the private detective purloins a journal does Bendrix discover the truth. Sarah had found him under the debris, apparently lifeless and made a plea, a promise to God for his life. If he lived, she would not see him again. And the others Sarah was seeing? An atheist and a priest helping her sort out the question of belief. In the end, Bendrix finds out it is not Henry or any of these rivals who came between him and Sarah. It was God. The God he hated who did not exist.

He discovers something else as he reads the journal, and talks with Henry, the atheist, the priest, and the detective. There had been a saintly goodness about Sarah that Bendrix hadn’t seen amid their torrid affair. Even that affair was a longing for passionate love, a love she hadn’t found with Henry. There was more–Henry’s life given back, a disfigurement that disappeared, a sickly child healed. I’m intrigued that Greene includes this “miraculous” element in the story.

We discover that neither Henry Miles nor Maurice Bendrix truly took the measure of Sarah during her life. There was a higher love in her life unsatisfied by being the trophy wife of a civil servant or the possessive passion of Bendrix’s love. The question we are left with is whether Bendrix will respond with love or with hate both to Sarah and Sarah’s God.

Greene, who wrote several novels touching on religious themes raises a searching question: can God call for ultimate love and loyalty? Even when it means the end of the affair? It may be one of the marks of modernity that this is even a question.

Review: Evil and Creation

Evil & Creation: Historical and Constructive Essays in Christian Dogmatics, Edited by David J. Luy, Matthew Levering, and George Kalantzis. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020.

Summary: An essay collection considering the doctrine of creation and how theologians and others have grappled with the emergence of evil.

The doctrine of creation is foundational for so many other elements of Christian theology. That includes our understanding of evil. Often this is posed as a problem. If God is good and all-powerful, and God’s creation is very good, whence evil? This collection of essays considers first early Christian explorations, and then recent thinking from theology, literature and other fields. These are the essays included;

Introduction; Evil in Christian Theology, David Luy and Matthew Levering. Two of the editors frame the discussion, noting the trend in modern theology to modify either the classic understanding of God or the destiny of the unrepentant evil.

Evil in Early Christian Sources

Judgment of Evil as the Renewal of Creation, Constantine R. Campbell. Considering the testimony of Paul, Genesis, Isaiah, Peter, and Revelation, argues that evil is intertwined with creation both in its corruption of creation and the obliteration of evil in the new creation.

Qoheleth and His Patristic Sympathizers on Evil and Vanity in Creation, Paul M. Blowers. Outlines the patristic understanding of this book as simultaneous flourishing and languishing, wisdom and vanity pointing toward Christ as the true Ecclesiast.

Problem of Evil: Ancient Answers and Modern Discontents, Paul L. Gavrilyuk. A survey of approaches to the problem of evil from ancient to modern times noting six major shifts.

Augustine and the Limits of Evil: From Creation to Christ in the Enchiridion, Han-luen Kantzer Komline. Considers how the Enchiridion holds together creation, fall, and Christology in addressing evil.

Augustine on Animal Death, Gavin Ortlund. Augustine, it turns out, had no problem with animal suffering and death before, or after, the fall, seeing it “as a beauty to be admired–a cause for praising God more than blaming him. Ortlund assesses both the helpful and unhelpful aspects of this stance.

Contemporary Explorations

The Evil We Bury, the Dead We Carry, Michel René Barnes. Proposes that evil is an experience, is ineluctable for human beings, and the first evil, which we cannot escape, is the immediate evil of our personal experience.

Creation and the Problem of Evil after the Apocalyptic Turn, R. David Nelson. With the contemporary focus on the apocalyptic–the death, resurrection, and in-breaking kingdom-Nelson considers the shift in thinking about evil in light of the creation.

Creation without Covenant, Providence without Wisdom: The Example of Cormac McCarthy’s The Crossing, Kenneth Oakes. A reflection on the Cormac McCarthy work, and the response of God to evil in the absence of his covenantal relationship with his people culminating in the incarnation, and a providence that is mere inscrutable purpose apart from wisdom.

The Appearance of Reckless Divine Cruelty’: Animal Pain and the Problem of Other Minds, Marc Cortez. Another essay on animal pain, considering the mental experience of suffering through the lens of the philosophical problem of other minds that finds the “no animal suffering view” untenable.

Recent Evolutionary Theory and the Possibility of the Fall, Daniel W. Houck. Reviews the traditional “disease” view of the fall in light of evolutionary theory, proposing a Thomist view of the fall as the loss of original justice.

Intellectual Disability and the Sabbath Structure of the Human Person, Jared Ortiz. Seeks to retrieve the distinction of person and nature in disability discussions and argues that the powerful impact the disabled often have on others reflects the “sabbath structure” inherent in all of us.

As is evident, this is a wide ranging collection of articles loosely tied together by the doctrine of creation and the existence of evil. Perhaps one other thread that connects a number of the articles is the movement from creation to Christ in our attempts to come to terms with evil. In some sense, we never quite find the emergence of evil explicable; it is only the hope of a new creation in Christ that can give meaning to the suffering that often attends evil. The essays on animal suffering and death are important in relating Christian hope to a world where animals are often afforded increasing dignity, as is the moving essay that concludes this volume on disability. Finally, the thread of how we hold ancient understandings in the light of modernity as reflected in philosophy, critical theories, evolutionary science, and literature recurs throughout this collection. Contrary to the tendency warned of in the preliminary essay, these writers do not jettison the scriptures, the councils, and the creeds, even as they grapple with modernity.

This is another valuable addition to the Lexham Press’s series of Studies in Historical and Systematic Theology.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: 40 Patchtown

40 Patchtown, Damian Dressick. Huron, Ohio: Bottom Dog Press, 2020.

Summary: Set during a coal strike in Windber, Pennsylvania in 1922, captures the hardship striking miners faced in their resistance to mine owners, their efforts to form unions and gain better wages for dangerous work.

My family and that of my wife traces its history to towns between Johnstown, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio. Many had associations with either the coal or steel industries. I was reminded in reading 40 Patchtown of the stories we heard at family gatherings of mine and mill owners, strikes and strike-breakers, Pinkerton’s, the hardships and the violence that came with encounters between powerful corporations and workers who risk their lives to dig coal out of the earth and to forge the steel that built the nation. There were the ethnic rivalries between eastern Europeans who arrived earlier, and Italians who came later. Company housing, rooming houses, and camps for evicted strikers. Finally, I encountered words I used to hear as a kid, but rarely since like studda-bubba (old woman) and dupa (your butt).

Damian Dressick, a writing professor at Clarion College (Pa.), grew up in coal country and through interviews with retired miners and their families and archival research, captures the hardships, the dangers, the family bonds, and the struggles to maintain worker solidarity during a grinding strike. His novel is set in Windber, Pennsylvania, a small mining town three miles south of Johnstown, in Somerset County during a coal miner strike in 1922. The novel opens with main character Chet Pistakowski joining his older brother Buzzy and a friend to go after “scabs” being brought in to take over the jobs of strikers. Buzzy ends up killing one of the men. The death of this replacement worker intensifies the conflict between the strikers seeking recognition for their union and the company. A train with more replacement workers is surrounded by armed guards who violently suppress and disperse the workers. Meanwhile, Chet struggles in his conscience over the killing of the Italian “scab,” who didn’t know he was taking the job of another.

After Buzzy is apprehended and killed, Chet’s family faces eviction. Dressick takes us into the worker camps and the efforts of union organizers to support the workers and the grinding poverty into which they descended. Chet takes over Buzzy’s job hauling bootlegged alcohol, running risks both with law enforcement and the bootlegging gangs themselves. The job brings in a lot of money, but the illicit activity, what his family and girl friend think of what he is doing, and the time it takes away from the union creates tension within Chet. This all comes to head with the death of a union organizer, confronting him with choices that could change his life or end it.

Dressick tells a riveting story that evokes the conditions of this era without becoming a documentary. The novel raises questions about the moral choices facing those subject to the overwhelming use of power and violence. Do oppressive conditions justify violence? Is violence folly when the oppressor has overwhelmingly superior force? Our understanding of how terrible the conditions these miners faced is intensified when we realize that it is a fourteen year old Chet who must wrestle with questions like these.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.